PFF Preview: 49ers @ Cowboys, Week 1
The start of another NFL season is upon us. And with it, comes the hope that draft picks, free agents, and zero-filled loss columns inspire in teams and fans across the country; these two are no different.
San Francisco has, of course, been battling to get over the proverbial “hump” for the past three seasons now. They will be as eager as ever to get to work this year and put a tumultuous offseason – including holdouts, suspensions, and big injuries – distant in the rearview mirror. Returning four of five members of the second-best run blocking unit of 2013 (+69.4) should help matters immensely despite center Jonathan Goodwin going to New Orleans in free agency. None of the 49ers’ starting offensive lineman had a combined negative overall grade in 2013 (with Joe Staley leading the pack with an impressive +24.4) and with the continuity that this unit has created, it would be very surprising to see them fall too far from their mark. It is worth noting that right tackle Anthony Davis is expected to miss here.
AT&T Stadium will be showcasing two of the best offensive lines in football on Sunday as Dallas’ front five is no slouch, either. They posted the third-best cumulative run blocking grade in 2013 (+59.1) and should only be getting better this year as their young, first-round picks continue to develop beside the improved Doug Free (a +13.1 in 2013 after an arduous -13.4 in 2012). One intriguing matchup to keep an eye on will be Dez Bryant vs. Tramaine Brock. Despite Bryant’s recognition and Brock’s relative lack thereof, it should be quite a contest as the latter graded out as the ninth-best corner in coverage last season (+10.6).
Here are three noteworthy numbers for each team:
San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick – The 49ers’ signal-caller had the eight-best PFF QB Rating with 88.56%. He also, interestingly enough, didn’t spike the ball a single time in 2013.
Vernon Davis – Davis led all tight ends in touchdowns and yards gained on deep routes (20 or more yards downfield) with six scores and 409 yards.
Tramaine Brock – As mentioned, Brock was impressive in coverage, but he also only missed two tackles the entire 2013 season. Tying him for fourth-best among eligible cornerbacks.
Demarco Murray – The running back averaged 2.71 Yards after Contact in 2013, placing him fourth-highest among all eligible running backs.
Jason Witten – The veteran tight end had a better catch rate on deep balls than any other tight end in the league last season at 50% (6-of-12, and brought in all six that were catchable). Much better than his 18.2% in 2012.
Orlando Scandrick – The +8.5 coverage grade earned by Scandrick placed him 15th out of the 110 cornerbacks that received enough snaps to qualify.
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